New Study of Saginaw Bay Walleye Movement and Reproduction Starts Soon

A new study begins this month on Saginaw Bay, using acoustic transmitters that will be implanted in walleye to help researchers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University and several partner agencies obtain data about where the fish spawn.

Fish will have acoustic transmitters attached to them, which will then beep a every few minutes. Acoustic receivers deployed in Lake Huron decode the tag beeps and log when fish tags are detected. The network of acoustic receivers in Saginaw Bay includes receivers in the mouths of rivers to listen for tagged fish moving to spawning grounds and receivers in Saginaw Bay to determine where walleye may be spawning.

A tray of acoustic transmitters ready for implanting. (source: Michigan DNR)

Understanding relative sources of natural reproduction for walleye will help fishery managers determine which rivers and reefs to protect and, when needed, where to invest in actions that enhance and improve fish habitat.

“The recovery of the Saginaw Bay walleye population is one of the great fishery management success stories of our time,” said Dave Fielder, a DNR fisheries research biologist. “However, we don’t fully know where all that natural reproduction takes place.”


Plans call for 150 walleye to be outfitted with transmitters this year, and 200 more in 2023. In addition to the transmitter, each fish will receive an external “Floy Tag” – a long, colored, plastic tag visible to anyone catching the fish. A $100 reward is offered for the return of an internal transmitter. Tagged fish can be returned by calling 989-686-3645.

“We are eager to discover if the walleye prone to migrating are all coming from certain reproductive sources (certain rivers or reefs) or if they are simply mixed in with all the rest of the walleye population,” said Fielder.

The study is funded by Michigan Sea Grant.